Asa Hutchinson vows to pursue his $100 million tax cut plan when he takes office, on top of $50 million in tax cuts already set to take effect in the next two years. The future of the private option Medicaid expansion, with its underlying support for government operations, remains cloudy.
Those hundreds of millions of potentially lost revenue brings us to Kansas, where Gov. Sam Brownback delivered a massive tax cut on the promise of trickle-down prosperity. What’s trickling down now is the need to either roll back the tax cuts or cut government spending substantially.
Within days of winning re-election, the governor was confronted with a grimmer budget picture as fiscal experts forecast that the state would bring in a billion dollars less over the next two years than initially projected. Most urgently, the experts said, the governor needed to address a shortfall of nearly $280 million in the current fiscal year.
His response came this past week, as he offered his first proposal to steady the budget, at least in the short term. He suggested cutting more than $70 million in agency spending and transferring more than $200 million into the state general fund from various reserves to plug the gap through the fiscal year ending in June.
Borrowing from reserves only delays the inevitable and grows the deficit.
There’s also immediate pain. Brownback proposes to draw down highway construction money, cut state agency spending by 4 percent (that’s people) and to slash pre-K. Yes, slash pre-K. This hits home because Asa Hutchinson in his campaign exhibited no fondness for pre-K. He did say he wouldn’t cut it, but he wouldn’t join Mike Ross’ vow to expand it. He even referred to it as a welfare program at one point.
Brownback has not proposed cuts in regular education or Medicaid. Yet.
But we can look as near as Mississippi for seeing that option used to balance a budget. The Mississippi legislature is ignoring the law and underfunding public schools.
In Arkansas, tax cutting and rising incarceration bills from curbs on parole will ultimately hit the classrooms of Arkansas. And if Hutchinson doesn’t get behind the private option sufficiently to continue it, get a bed ready for granny, currently in a nursing home.
The peril for pre-K education is the saddest news for its snowball effect. Everybody agrees that children who arrive at the 1st grade behind have a devilishly hard time catching up. An early start is critical. The dividend is multiplier effects in everything from work to crime rates.